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Banks leads Makos past Northland

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Sportal.co.nz     26 Sep 2013     Getty Images

The fullback-come-pivot nailed seven of nine penalty shots and scored a blistering try at the death to keep an elusive win out of Northland's reach while cementing his side's spot atop the championship.

Not since round two, when Southland made the trek north, has the Taniwha victory song rung out from beneath the Toll Stadium stands.

Languishing at the foot of the table, not even the perfect conditions and the return of captain Rene Ranger from a shoulder injury could get the home side across the line as they slumped to their fourth defeat on the trot.

Coach Derren Whitcombe will need to dig deeper as he looks for answers to Northland's wasteful ways. Watching his side break the defence then give away possession on a consistent basis must be frustrating to say the least.

Tasman's front row of Sila Puafisi, Siua Halanukonuka and Francis Smith provided dominance at scrum time, an area the home side were expected to have an advantage.

New Chiefs signing Liam Squire injected the forward pack with extra energy in the second half, as did fellow replacements Joe Wheeler and Quentin MacDonald.

However the latter may be called up during the week for what appeared to be a shoulder charge on Northland pivot Daniel Hawkins.

While the eight changes made by coach Kieran Keane may have affected Tasman's ability to find the accuracy and timing needed to score more tries, having Banks on the field ensured they were always a threat.

The former Buller star opened his account in stunning fashion with a penalty from 55 metres out, before slotting a further three to take the lead for the second time in the match.

Referee Mike Fraser was not holding back with the whistle, filling the opening 10 minutes with as many penalties, many in the favour of Tasman.

Irrespective of their 6-3 deficit, Northland dominated territory. A number of promising movements were let down by basic errors and it took a classy offload by captain Ranger to land the first blow.

Explosive fullback Mathew Wright received the pass close to the left touch line then ran unopposed to score at the posts.

That gave the home side its first lead, but Banks hit back with two penalties to regain the lead shortly before the siren sounded for the break.

It was a minor victory for the visitors, who had just a 29 percent share of territory in the opening spell. No less than 10 turnovers conceded also made life more difficult for them.

Tasman looked to have extended their advantage early in the second spell. An impressive offload from Tevita Cavubati sent Robbie Malnaek across but TMO replays found Hawkins' fingers in between the ball and the line.

However, a penalty from the ensuing scrum saw Banks increase his personal tally with penalty number five of the evening.

When the lanky kicker landed another blow, it looked as though the result was well and truly beyond doubt.

But after Hawkins replied with his boot, a major call went Northland's way as Mitchell Scott was denied a try when the TMO pulled play back for a controversial knock on way back in Tasman territory.

Within five points of victory, the Taniwha somehow managed to hand over possession inside the attacking 22, with referee Fraser deeming players to have sealed off the ball illegally.

It became even more embarrassing when yet another turnover in attacking territory saw Banks scoop up the loose ball and streak away to score in the left corner.

Northland: 13 (Mathew Wright try; Dan Hawkins con, 2 pen) Tasman: 28 (Marty Banks try; Marty Banks con, 7 pen) HT: 10-12